After getting past the Dolphins last week the Ravens will return to the friendly confines of “The Bank” to play in front of the purple faithful. There they must be prepared for a stiff test in the form of the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. Aaron Rodgers and his offensive machine will surely be a tough challenge for the Baltimore defense to slow down but perhaps the bigger question is can the Ravens offense find enough to test a weak secondary and a team without it’s best defensive player in Clay Matthews?
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Let’s take a look at a few of the important match-ups for this week:
Ravens Outside Linebacker Terrell Suggs vs. Packers Offensive Tackle David Bakhtiari
There is no doubt that Suggs has returned to his DPOY form from 2011. He’s having a magnificent season so far. He’s now fourth in the league in sacks (7) and three in the Fourth Quarter of the Dolphins victory last week. But Sizzle is more than just a sack specialist as he also has 30 tackles which leaves him in pretty elite company around the league. He’ll need to have another strong game to slow down Rodgers and company this weekend.
Bakhtiari is a rookie that was forced into action after an injury to starter Bryan Bulaga. So far he’s done a decent job, especially in the run game where his athleticism is suited for the Packers zone blocking schemes. Green Bay’s line has been susceptible to allowing too much pressure on their signal caller as eleven sacks will attest. If Bakhtiari is up to the task of keeping the Packers highly rated running game churning and keeping Suggs out of the backfield it will be a huge key for a Packers victory.
Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith vs. Packers Cornerback Sam Shields
It should be clear at this point that Smith is THE top receiving weapon in this Ravens offense. He’s taken the role and is literally running with it. He’s not only been special for the Ravens but also in the league. He currently ranks in the top three in the NFL in receiving yards (556), yards per catch (20.6) and yards after the catch (223).
Smith should be excited to invite a Packers pass defense that ranks 28th in the NFL. But let’s not think that things will be so easy. Shields has seemingly taken over the top cornerback role in the Packers defense from Tramon Williams and recently marked top receivers A.J. Green and limited his production. He’s a solid player and has had success in his new role.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Eugene Monroe vs. Packers Outside Linebacker Nick Perry
This is the first opportunity to see if Ozzie Newsome’s trade for the former Jaguar was a prudent one. We’ve discussed the Offensive line issues ad nauseam here at BSL and there’s no doubt that the unit must play better if the Ravens want to have any chance of returning to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. That success now hinges on Monroe as he takes over the task of protecting Flacco’s blind side.
Perry will also be taking on a new role as he replaces the Outside rush linebacker Clay Matthews. He’s coming off a strong game against the Lions where he registered two sacks and a hurry. Dom Capers’ aggressive 3-4 system will also test the Ravens communication on blitz assignments, another area where Baltimore has struggled so far.
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Packers Inside Linebacker A.J. Hawk
It’s been a tough start to the season for Rice with injuries and fumbles being a concern. Last week was encouraging as he broke out with 102 Total yards and two touchdowns in Miami. Still Rice doesn’t appear to be as elusive as in the past and has been unable to break many tackles or make defenders miss. Either way he remains a key to the Ravens attack and they will need to get the ball into his hands until further notice.
One possibility could be to get Rice involved in the screen game and match him up against linebacker like A.J. Hawk. Hawk is vet known for physical play and tenacity but he could be taken advantage of in coverage. He’ll be paired with rookie Jamari Lattimore on the side due to Brad Jones hamstring injury. That could give Rice some room to operate though the Pack did a fine job limiting Reggie Bush last week (17 touches – 69 yards). They’ll need to be up to the task again.
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
I don’t normally do this. It’s not as if these two will be on the field at the same time but I do see this battle as a key to which team will win this weekend. On paper it looks like a mismatch. Rodgers is having another stellar season with a rating of 105.5 and nine touchdowns against three interceptions while Flacco has a lowly 70.1 with more picks (8) than touchdowns (5).
However the game is played on the field and the Packer offense hasn’t been flawless. They’ve experienced red-zone issues and Rodgers has turned the ball over when pressured. While Flacco historical has been a much better quarterback at home he could have his breakout game against a secondary that ranks close to the bottom of the league.
Simply the quarterback that plays better this Sunday will have a large say in whose team is victorious.